Giles Lewin - The Armchair Orienteer

2009 studio album

The Armchair Orienteer - Giles Lewin

the bright young folk review

This is an excellent album and I enjoyed every minute of it. In a way "orienteer" conjures too narrow an image, this is no cross-country map-reading race, it is one-man world music.

All fourteen tracks (save one) are instrumental and all are written or arranged by Giles Lewin, this being his debut release under his own name. Supported by, in his own words, his ’long suffering string section’, he is a experienced and accomplished musician with an extensive history with The Carnival Band and more recently Bellowhead.

He is able to play a fascinating range of instruments - medieval bagpipes, shawm and rebec among them but the driving force for this album is the fiddle.

As he says himself in the sleeve notes the fiddle is his ’virtual passport’. Written at home they may have been but these tunes certainly further that theme well, admirably highlighting the many cultures that have made the fiddle their own. Each track, despite unusual instruments and arrangements manages to clearly and distinctly capture the flavour of each country. Piva Italiana for example combines an Indian style fiddle solo with Italian folk and includes a Jew’s harp. It would be invidious to pick any tracks out as favourites, so I won’t, each one is a gem.

Opening with a selection from Playford’s ’Dancing Master’, it is brilliantly simple, pared down and English. Then on to Austria and a Viennese café with just fiddle and piano. Through the Carpathians next, a vigorous East European folk style, a waltz for the Scilly Isles, and Ireland. Track nine, The Make Believe, is apparently The Maple Leaf filtered by drink and a strong Kerry accent.

The most far-flung is track twelve, two Arabic songs and the only vocal track, a reminder that Giles studied Arab violin in Cairo. I heard him sing this in a solo spot while he was touring with Maddy Prior and it works very well in this collection.

I recommend this wholeheartedly, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Martin Pain

Released by Park Records on 6 April 2009.

1. Playford Set
2. Stepping Out/Coffee At Hawelka’s
3. Trans Carpathian Camper Van
4. St Agnes Waltz
5. Lost Hat, The
6. Piva Italiana
7. Castabell
8. Eliza’s Swing/Twice Round The Floor
9. Make Believe, The
10. Ventry Polka/Kerry Passport/Kilvickadownig Jig
11. Antioch Cafe
12. Fog Il Nakhl/Il Bulbul
13. Klezmer Hora
14. Sting In The Tail

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